Today we have guest blogger Courtney Randall! She is an avid cocktail enthusiast and has been doing posts on her blog Cocktail Quest since 2009. Though her first introduction to classic cocktails came in the form of the Sidecar, it was really Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwarz’s Art of the Bar that compelled her to explore all things related to cocktails. No cocktail has since been safe from her shaker! Welcome Courtney and I hope you all enjoy her post and her cocktail… I know I did! – Kathy
Spring has come to Seattle, or at least the calendar says it has. With my winter jacket prematurely stored, every morning I still leave the house and my breath fogs in the cold morning air. Spring is present in name only. I have started daydreaming about wearing suede shoes, not carrying an umbrella, and all things citrus, summery and bright.
These days the muddler has become a permanent fixture by my sink and rosemary, basil, and even parsley have crept into such familiar cocktail standbys like the Sherry Cobbler, French 75, or even a basic sour. In the springtime, everything looks better in green.
Of late, I’ve been reading about balsamic vinegar syrups, muddled lemongrass, and fruit vinegar syrups called shrub in the tireless search for new cocktail ideas. And suddenly, inspiration hit: why not cilantro? Cilantro is usually used in savory combinations, but it goes just as well with mango and pineapple. But in my mind I saw cilantro with strawberries. While it’s true that those two ingredients mix well together, a successful cocktail hinges on more than just muddled fruits and herbs. I needed a blueprint. Whenever I am constructing a new drink, I try to find an appropriate model to use as a jumping off point, at least for the proportions. Once the foundation for a drink is set, it is that much easier to innovate. The Sangre de Fresa from the Art of the Bar seemed to fit perfectly for my new drink, as it combines strawberries and a muddled herb in a refreshing summery way. It is also served over ice with a club soda top, which is what I had initially envisioned for my creation. Once I had a basic recipe, I could start tinkering and really explore the flavors.
Fresh strawberries budding in!
The main decisions were easy. I had some pepper syrup in the refrigerator that seemed like it would work and I knew I wanted to use cachaca for the base. I just love drinks with lots of flavor. But then I hit a minor road block.
Sometimes a model doesn’t produce the drink you initially wanted to create. I wanted a dry, refreshing, bubbly libation, but when I used the Sange de Fresa blueprint the drink was too strawberry-focused. All of the other elements were eclipsed. It was time to change course. The daiquiri is a perfect example of a dry refreshing cocktail, and I decided to match its sweet-to-sour ratio. By decreasing the amount of strawberry and increasing the lime juice and syrup, I was able to regain refreshing. But something was still missing. With all of the major ingredients in place, it came down to “seasoning” and that means bitters. Often it is the smallest ingredients that pull a drink together and give it necessary depth. The addition of the orange bitters and Campari brought the drink into balance and added an unexpected hint of bitterness. With drink in hand, it’s time to sit back and dream of warmer temperatures; they’ll be here eventually.
Cheers! – Courtney Randall
Strawberry Cilantro Fizz
Makes 1 drink
1 strawberry hulled and quartered
Leaves from 8 sprigs of cilantro
3/4 oz Cracked Black Peppercorn Syrup (recipe follows)
1 1/2 oz Novo Fogo silver cachaca
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1/8 oz Campari
1 dash Regan’s Orange Bitters
2 oz club soda
Garnish: half a strawberry, small sprig of cilantro
Muddle strawberry, cilantro and peppercorn syrup in a mixing glass. Add the other ingredients, fill with ice, cap and shake. Double strain into an ice filled Collins glass. Top with club soda and stir. Garnish with a half strawberry, a small sprig of cilantro.
Recipe by Courtney Randall
Cracked Black Peppercorn Syrup
Makes about 1 1/2 cups syrup
2 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Crush peppercorns then add to a small sauce pan with the sugar and water. Stir. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and let steep for 1 hour. Strain the syrup through a fine sieve, transfer to a bottle, and refrigerate for up to three weeks.